The move comes less than three weeks after the show’s Nov. 19 debut on the streaming service.
The space Western had a rough reception. The 10-episode series garnered only a 46 percent positive critics rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Fans seemed to agree, giving the show a 56 percent positive audience score on the site. According to Netflix’s Top 10 site, the series has racked up almost 74 million viewing hours worldwide since its debut — so it got plenty of sampling out of the gate — but it plummeted 59 percent for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5.
Insiders pointed out that Netflix’s renewal rate for scripted series that have two or more seasons stands at 60 percent, in line with industry averages, and, like all Netflix renewal verdicts, the decision was made by balancing the show’s viewership and cost. The streamer also prides itself on taking big swings on projects like Cowboy Bebop and has many other genre shows on the air and in the works.
The project is the latest attempt to reinvent Japanese anime as live-action that failed to draw viewers following titles such as 2009’s Dragonball Evolution and 2017’s Ghost in the Shell and Death Note. The biggest success in the space so far was arguably 2019’s Alita: Battle Angel, which pulled sizable foreign grosses ($319 million), if not domestic ($85 million).
The Cowboy Bebop series starred John Cho, Mustafa Shakir and Daniella Pineda as three bounty hunters, aka “cowboys,” all trying to outrun the past. From the show’s description: “They form a scrappy, snarky crew ready to hunt down the solar system’s most dangerous criminals — for the right price. But they can only kick and quip their way out of so many scuffles before their pasts finally catch up with them.”
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Angie Han wrote that Cowboy Bebop was “faithful to a fault” with “leaden pacing” and “the sharp [anime] visuals [were] reduced to muddy CG, the playful humor translated as phony laughter, the lived-in grittiness replaced with shoddy-looking sets” and that the remake “seems to have no point at all.”
The show was based on the popular 1998 Japanese anime TV series and the 2001 anime film. Netflix first ordered the project direct to series back in 2018. A live-action feature film version starring Keanu Reeves was also previously in development at Fox.
André Nemec (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) serves as showrunner, with original anime series director Shinichiro Watanabe on board as a consultant on the series and original composer Yoko Kanno returning for the live-action adaptation.